This evaluation is part of a round of funding between the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and the Royal Society of Arts to test the impact of different cultural learning strategies in English schools entitled ‘Learning about Culture’. These projects have been independently evaluated by a collaboration between the UCL Institute of Education and the Behavioural Insights Team who have also produced an overarching report to draw together learning from all five trials within the round.
Previous research to improve writing has found that support for interventions that include peer assistance, setting product goals, word processing, inquiry, and study of models. YJA operates within many of these domains but had not yet been formally evaluated. This evaluation aimed to measure the effect of participating in the YJA on pupils’ writing skills and explored its impact on pupils’ creativity and writing self-efficacy.
This trial of YJA involved 82 schools and 2,137 pupils. The independent evaluation found that pupils in schools that participated in Young Journalist Academy made, on average, the equivalent of two months’ less progress in writing (the primary outcome) compared to children in the usual practice control group. However, as with any study, there is uncertainty around the result: the possible impact of this programme ranges from four months’ less progress to positive effects of one additional month of progress. This result has a moderate to high security rating: 3 out of 5 on the EEF.
The evaluation found that most teachers thought that YJA had a positive impact on pupils’ engagement with culture and the wider world. Teachers also thought that there was some evidence that changes were taking place for pupils in relation to media engagement and skill development. Case study data indicated that YJA had helped pupils to find purpose in their written work, particularly those described as reluctant writers.
Teachers reported that they found it difficult to integrate YJA into their teaching practice and school curriculum. They also reported finding it difficult to extend the programme beyond the eight days provided by the YJA team. Both points were particularly true in schools where the Senior Leadership Team was less supportive of the intervention, and where teachers had been less engaged during YJA sessions.
The EEF has no plans for a further trial of Young Journalist Academy.
- Children in schools that participated in YJA made the equivalent of two months’ less progress in writing, as measured by the Writing Assessment Measure (WAM), on average, compared to children in other schools. This is our best estimate of impact which has a moderate to high security rating. However, as with any study, there is uncertainty around the result: the possible impact of this programme ranges from four months’ less progress to positive effects of one additional month of progress.
- Among pupils eligible for free school meals (FSM), those in schools that participated in YJA made the equivalent of three months’ less progress in writing, on average, compared to children in other schools. These results have lower security than the overall findings because of the smaller number of pupils in this group.
- There is no evidence that YJA had an impact on writing self-efficacy or writing creativity (ideation) as measured by the Writing Self-Efficacy Measure (WSEM).
- Findings from the IPE indicated that teachers perceived the programme to have a positive impact on pupils. Of the teachers surveyed, 69% thought that YJA had a positive impact on pupils’ writing. However, some teachers were uncertain about whether YJA improved writing attainment, though these teachers said the programme may have had more of an impact on engaging more reluctant writers and increasing writing confidence.
- Among teacher survey respondents, 74% thought that YJA had a positive impact on pupils’ engagement with culture and the wider world, and that there was some evidence that longer lasting changes were taking place for pupils in relation to media engagement and skill development. Some teachers also felt that YJA had a positive impact on pupils’ confidence, and that the programme improved communication skills. That said, some teachers found it difficult to reconcile the amount of time required for YJA with teaching the school curriculum, and found it challenging to further embed the programme outside of the sessions.